Labour leader: Cut the arts

Labour leader: Cut the arts


norman lebrecht

July 05, 2015

Liz Kendall, who is running for the leadership of the British Labour Party, has said she wants arts money from the National Lottery to be spent on ‘deprived children’

Liz is the lone Blairite candidate in a charisma-free, low-key contest. She may have just blown her credentials as the middle-ground candidate – though we should remember that Tony Blair himself took a populist anti-arts subsidy line in his first years as prime minister.

liz kendall


  • Robert Roy says:

    Well, whether she wants to cut arts funding or not is irrelevant since it’s going to be a LONG time until the crushed Labour Party is anywhere close to being re-elected and, by that time, London will have its new Rattle generated concert hall providing a real boost for the arts.

  • Stephen says:

    Cameron enjoys seeing foxes tortured to death and would like to have 70% of our iconic animal the badger desroyed yet people still voted for him massively. I doubt if most people care any more about the arts.

  • Douglas Knehans says:

    Cripes, if this is LABOUR who will protect and promote the arts? #doomsday

  • Mark Pemberton says:

    The Independent article is misleading. What she has actually called for is a review of the Big Lottery Fund. That is just one distributor of National Lottery funds, which gives money to charities. Arts funding comes from a completely different distributor.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Just another demagoge proposing that a pair of boots is more useful than a volume of Sakespeare’s complete works.

  • Angela Rodion says:


  • CDH says:

    What is parenthetical about ‘deprived children’? Such do exist — all too many, alas. And deprived can mean anything from hungry to homeless to abused.

    Mr. Knehans makes the legitimate point. But acting as if this politician has invented some sub-species undeserving of public support is reprehensible. The critical debate is the role of the arts in society and the requirement and justification for public support of art and artists as one of the duties of a responsible government. Not sneering at other, defensibly more, worthy causes.

    • PDQ.BACH says:

      No, the critical debate is about the cynicism of allocating aleatory marginal ressources to the remedy of intolerable suffering.

      Lottery is, by definition, a tax on the stupid and/or poor (categories not necessarily overlapping); moreover, a cynical tax on hope. Also by definition, its earnings are aleatory. It is a signal failure of public education: if enough people left school with a minimal understanding of probability, lottery sales would plummet.

      The fact that there are still too many children suffering deprivation in a rich country like Britain, furthermore one that had achieved a functioning welfare state not long ago, marks a major political failure. This should be addressed by the state, public bodies, and society at large.

      Betting on a tax on stupidity to cater for poor children is a new low of political immorality.

      As for funding the arts, Ms. Kendall reminds me of Romulus the Great in a play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt:
      Why, is culture something that you can salvage?”

  • James of Thames says:

    To be sure the matter of “deprived children” is important, but does one want to deprive them of exposure to the arts as well?

    • Angela Rodion says:

      Thank you, that’s a very good point.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      Very true. After all, if we liberate these ‘underprivileged’ types, we won’t be able to count on their vote later, will we? The Left loves to see themselves as the champions of the have-nots but are terrified they’ll lose their support if they do actually help them out of their situation.

  • SVM says:

    Both of the two main parties are ‘shuffling the deckchairs’, and I am disappointed that they are so unimaginative as to simply talk about where the very limited funding should go. What is really needed from a progressive government is more funding overall, in order that the arts and services for deprived children (and the two categories are *not* mutually exclusive) can *both* be adequately funded. A higher budget for these can be furnished from cutting Trident (something which, again, neither of the two main parties is proposing to do) and raising taxes (none of us likes to pay more tax, but it is morally irresponsible of governments not to consider this at a time when socio-economic inequality has attained such an absurd magnitude).

    I trust that the MU will be reviewing whether it should continue to give money to the Labour party (I am sure that I am not the only musician to choose the ISM instead of the MU on account of the latter’s indiscriminate support for Labour).

  • Michael B. says:

    One factor here is that, increasingly, support for Labour comes from constituencies that are based in a culture of non-Western origin. Among these constituencies, perhaps with the exception of some Asians, the established arts institutions are seen as largely non-welcoming to them and as citadels of white privilege. Among these constituencies, support of such arts institutions as the major orchestras and opera houses is a very low priority. The same political dynamics are playing out in the United States with respect to the Democratic Party, which also is increasingly supported by such constituencies (with the additional factor in the United States that a significant fraction of financial support for the Democratic Party comes from the entertainment industry, which has long severed any ties to serious culture and has come to the conclusion that support for such serious culture erodes their business model, which is more and more based on the lowest common denominator of vulgarity and violence; anything that gets people, particularly young people, to think for themselves and choose different alternatives for entertainment, ones that have deeper significance and get people to think and question, threatens their bottom line).

  • william osborne says:

    Defunding the arts will create a society with less social awareness and compassion. This will increase the suffering of the poor.